Have you ever taken yourself on a long hike or walk on a trail you’ve never travelled before? Or perhaps you have decided for no good reason other than boredom or curiosity to drive yourself a different way to work or home? Some folks might consider these behaviors as frivolous, careless or downright wasteful of one’s valuable time! Especially given the high likelihood of getting lost when we attempt travels into the unknown. But really, what’s wrong with getting lost once in a while? Isn’t this the stuff of life? And besides, if we choose to take a detour on purpose, we may certainly take precautions before and during the journey to reduce our chances of getting lost. This is the 21st century after all. We have GPS devices on our phones and in our cars. Getting lost is harder to do these days!
So, in honor of our explorer nature, I’d like to wander and weave my thoughts through this post today. What follows are some of the musings and wonderings I had while ascending a neighborhood trail on my morning’s walk. Usually, I walk and jog the sidewalks and surface streets in my neighborhood. Staying on the hard-pack is the most efficient (less strenuous) way to get in my daily miles. But for whatever reason, the idea to hike the strenuous, rock strewn summit trail 2000-ft above the neighborhood, seemed like the thing to do this morning. I’m not sure why I thought today was a good day for the summit trail; I did not have the right shoes for the hike, nor did I have my trekking poles; but the hill was summoning me to ascend and I felt willing to oblige its call.
“There are two ways to get lost: To get lost unintentionally, to get lost willingly! There is adventure in both, but the difference is this: The first has fear, the second has joy!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan
Perhaps it was the verdant, extravagant shades of green covering the usually brown hills; or maybe it was the cool temps of this late summer morning that urged me onward and upward in breathless revelry? Regardless, I’m not sure when it commenced, but at some point on my way to the summit, I began to think about those breadcrumbs. You know, the breadcrumbs that Hansel cast on the trail to guide him and Gretel safely out of Grimm’s dark forest. It was a brilliant idea of his and well executed too. Unfortunately, Hansel had not considered the birds and beasts of the forest who would eat the crumbs and obliterate their hopes and plans for a safe return journey.
It occurred to me, while I was trudging up that summit trail this morning, that we often do the same thing as Hansel did. Have you ever noticed or found yourself on life’s path in a place you had no intention of travelling? Sometimes a sickness or a lack of attention or an unforeseen accident or happenstance can force us to take an off-ramp on life’s highway. Adversity always takes us to a place far from the safety of our own neighborhood. Then there are other times where we choose to travel like an explorer, and we’ll purposefully traverse unknown territories. It seems to me the explorers who journey on purpose, these ones usually have the luxury of following in the footsteps of others who have travelled the route before them. They are like the birds of the forest who pick up the breadcrumbs left behind by former pilgrims.
“It’s okay to get lost every once in a while, sometimes getting lost is how we find ourselves.”
― Robert Tew
So these were the thoughts which carried me onward this morning as I stumbled and bumbled my way to the summit. Those thoughts swirled in my head like vultures over carrion. There was a strand of thinking about how we leave breadcrumbs for ourselves as we journey into our own dark nights and scary forests. Things that look like breadcrumbs for me are activities like journaling and meditative reflections. Especially helpful breadcrumbs are those cathartic sessions of venting and downloading and expressing or wishing and dreaming with friends or loved ones as I as journey through the the land of the lost. You know we all have these times, of living with the loss of our health, or the loss of a loved one or the loss of a relationship or work or the loss of our ‘normal’ life because of a global pandemic.
I realized too, how much we need to leave breadcrumbs for each other, because at some point, we’re all going to get lost in the forest of life. And this is where we have an opportunity to leave a legacy for those who come behind us on the trail. Have you ever considered what sort of legacy you are leaving for those who know and love you? Whether you plan your legacy or not, you are indeed leaving your breadcrumbs for those others who come behind you on life’s byway.
“Sometimes it takes a wrong turn to get you to the right place.”
― Mandy Hale
Your legacy is left in all sorts of places. You know that, right? And these places you leave your breadcrumbs might surprise you. For instance, in this age of social media, what ever you cast out into the ether of the Internet, you leave behind a trail of yourself with every post you make on social media and/or every electronic message you create via your phone or computer. I think this is something worthy of your consideration, don’t you? What kind of breadcrumb legacy are you leaving your family and friends? I hope you’ll make your exchanges count for those who read you after you have crossed over into the high country.
If you don’t use the modern technologies, you still have breadcrumbs to scatter! Your legacy is branded onto the memories and hearts of all those with whom you interact. Are you teaching them how to show up bravely when you are under stress or duress or sick in your body or soul? Are you showing them how to love and care for the needs of others who are struggling with lack of resource or ability? Perhaps you leave your legacy by taking care of those lost and broken others found in nature; the wild things we share space with: the animals, the plants, our environment?
I hope you realize that your lostness in life is not a thing to evade, but rather a life-line to chase and embrace. It is your lifeline and mine; we each need those breadcrumbs to find our way home. When we willingly travel to the high country, where the air is thin and the vistas expand, it is from these heights that we might remind each other…we are not lost when we walk with those who journey willingly with us. And all those others who have gone before, they too show illumine our paths. When we follow the breadcrumbs of trustworthy pilgrims, we are walking each other home…through the dark forest to the place of the rising sun. Carry on, faithful explorer; the view from the summit is worth your each bumbling step and straining breath.